To Chemo or Not to Chemo

Dear Deanne,

“You are incredible!  Your life is both beautiful and nerve-rackingly unbelievable.  In everything you do we find ourselves thinking, “WTF, she is crazy!” and then in the next breath, “OMG she is freaking BRILLIANT!” So we’ll admit that we’re biting our nails as you double-dare the fates yet again.  But, we’ve also a solid feeling of, “Well of course, she’ll turn this thing on its head and use it as a key to unlocking the secrets of the universe. And if you need someone to hold your hand while you turn that key, well, we’re here for that too.”  


These are the words of my sister-in-law, Jenna and my brother, Kevin in a card they sent to me recently.  Well, Jenna and Kevin, you know me well.  Thank you for your beautiful and sincere card.  In typical Deanne style, I began to double dare the fates again.  I am questioning protocol, considering defying doctors, and contemplating a path less travelled. To chemo or not to chemo?  That is the question.

I am scheduled to have a port surgically implanted next Friday, March 4th and the chemo is planned to begin March 8th.  But like a bridegroom a few days before the wedding, I am getting cold feet.

The problem:  I DO NOT WANT CHEMO!!! 

Every time I think of going the route of taxotere and herceptin, I feel hopeless, depressed, overwhelmed and downright scared.  Yes, this is what is prescribed by the doctors.  Yes, it will improve my chance of survival.  But, like always, I know there are other options, other ways to battle cancer without chemo.  And, I am not the only one.  There are many people out there choosing not to do chemo and kicking cancer in the ass.

Here is what John Hopkins has to say: 


Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins:

1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.

2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime.

3. When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.

4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, but also to environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet to eat more adequately and healthy, 4-5 times/day and by including supplements will strengthen the immune system.

6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.

7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.

8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.

9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.

11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.

What’s a girl to do after reading this?  Follow my doctor’s advice with chemo and herceptin or follow a more holistic approach by not feeding the cancer with a vegan diet, supplements and alternative treatments.  Many who choose the holistic route live for years, many die.  Many who choose chemo and herceptin live for years, many die.  In fact, one woman dies of breast cancer around the world every minute.  It is a pandemic. 

To chemo or not to chemo?  It is an almost impossible decision because cancer is so very complicated and unfortunately we do not have all the answers.  If we did, there would be a cure.  Let’s face it.  It sucks!  The whole thing sucks!  I am in a shitty situation, but I still have to decide.  What is the best path for me? 

I understand that for many, there is no decision.  The doctors say chemo, then chemo it is.  For those of you that know me, there is always a decision to be made, I question everything.  Don’t ever ask me my favorite color.  It may take a week for me to get back to you with an answer.

My doctors say chemo.  My diagnosis has not changed since surgery.  I still have a very aggressive cancer that can possibly metastasize to the brain, bones or organs and when cancer comes back a second time it tends to come back with a vengeance.  If that happens my prognosis is dim.  Adjuvant treatment with herceptin and chemo will increase my chance of survival to 85% or higher.  Without this treatment my survival rate is 50%.  So what is my problem you might ask?  The John Hopkins update, Suzzane Sommers, and alternative medicine.  Chemo is poison.  It takes you to the brink of death, has serious side effects like neuropathy, early onset of menopause and many other yucky stuff.  I can handle the hair loss and flu like symptoms but my mom has neuropathy and it has been brutal for her.  Is it worth the risk when others are healing themselves naturally?   

Honestly, I drove myself and others crazy this week asking myself this question over and over again.  Is it worth the risk?  I lost sleep over this decision.  I called everyone I know.  I met with many doctors.  I read.  I researched.  I cried.  I ate chocolate.  It reminds me of almost 10 years ago when I was trying to decide whether or not to take my kids out of school, except this time it is my life I am flirting with.  After talking to my mom about this, she said, “Honey, I want to grab you and shake you.”  I don’t blame her.  She thinks I make life harder than it has to be.  I agree.  But, in the same breath she said, “I’m proud of you.” 

Me and my Mom

Yesterday, I had a light bulb moment.  I realized that I am frozen with fear.  When I was a little girl, I could never rip that band aid off.  Remember Mom?  How did you put up with me?  I would slowly peel it away, bit by bit for days until it finally dangled there by a teeny thread, holding on for dear life, finally falling off when I least expected it.  It’s a bit like this, chemo that is.  I am fighting it.  I am trying to find every way around it, any loop hole to avoid it, any magic pill to steer clear of that moment when the poison drips into my veins.  The reality is that the band aid will eventually fall off.  Cancer won’t.  No way around it, whether with chemo or a full holistic approach, I have to take action and rip that band aide off. 

Riley told me a story the other day.  He said that his teacher asked each of his students to share with the class the thing they are most afraid of.  One kid said he was afraid of cacti after crashing into one very prickly cactus while riding his motorcycle.  Ouch!  I don’t blame him.  I asked Riley what he shared.  He said, “I’m afraid of losing my mom and dad.”  My heart filled with love and my eyes with tears when I heard these words from my 17 year old son. 

Riley and Bella

That’s it!  I need to rip it off, damn it, like that band aid I never could.  I need to be here for my children.  I need definite, crystal clear action.  I need to know with as much certainty as possible that I will not die.  I want to live!  I want to live for me.  I want to live for them.  So, I have made a decision, again.  Both chemo/herceptin AND the holistic approach!!!  I plan to rip the dam thing off doing everything I know possible and then move on with my life.  No regrets.

Yes, Jenna and Kevin, you are right.  I am crazy sometimes.  Yes, mom, you are right too, I do have a tendency to make my life more difficult than necessary.  But, it is exactly this craziness, turning things on its head and stubbornness that answers are found, light bulbs go on and keys are turned, unlocking our own personal truth and the secrets of the universe.  It’s not easy but somebody’s got to do it. Thank you, all of you, for being there for me and holding my hand while I turned that key.

I love you Mom!

12 Responses to “To Chemo or Not to Chemo”

  1. Darren Skousen Says:

    You don’t know me. My name is Darren Skousen. I attended choir with your husband, Kevin, his brother Matt and his mom Anita for all my years of high school. I just wanted to tell you that you inspire my wife and I and don’t take this the wrong way but we love you and truly want you to get better. I don’t know if this message will help but the world needs you to grace its paths alot longer.

    The Skousen Family

  2. Tina Says:

    :D Glad you made a decision. xoxoxoxo We are here for you anytime.

  3. Mom Says:

    I love you so much Deanne. I will be there to hold your hand!

  4. Liz Says:

    Hi Deanne,
    The “John Hopkins” Update is a hoax email and does not come from Johns Hopkins University.
    And judging from what Suzanne Sommers says about Pancreatic cancer she is an idiot.

  5. Bob Tarmac Says:

    Deanne, do not be afraid. Instead, laugh at everything. And this is most important. EVERYTHING. Especially yourself. It disarms fear.

    I am glad you have chosen to pursue both paths. Neither path is a guarantee, but choosing both increases the odds. It is a good choice, and I’m proud you made it. I think of you often, and know from experience all the worries and concerns that are burdening you. Learn to let go, laugh, and accept the fight of your life with enthusiasm.

    You are a cancer warrior of the highest order, …… KICK ASS !!!

  6. John Alvarado Says:

    Good choice(s). Add meditation/prayer and you have the trinity of healing.

  7. Delena Sinclair Says:

    Don’t second guess….. Still praying…..

  8. Gretchen Says:

    Does this mean you are going to have a patch of grass growing in your fridge that you eat from? Please share what you learn. I would love to learn more about nutrition from you.

  9. Deanne Says:

    Ok Delena, no more second guessing! I have decided!

    Gretchen, I will write a blog about nutrition and what I have learned. Honestly, my new way of eating is doing wonders, weight loss, more energy and very minimal pms. I am no longer a walking hormone.

    And, yes, meditation and prayer John.

    Thank you for your words of encouragement Darren, Bob, Tina and Mom.

    And, yes, Liz, I have been warned about stuff out there on the internet. You made me laugh!


  10. Stacy Says:

    I get that you need to exhaust all possible sources of info and know that you will undoubtedly weave together a plan that combines the best of all types of approaches. I applaud you! Your friend Liz is correct about the “John Hopkins” Cancer update – it is a hoax and you can read about it probably on Snopes or at the Johns Hopkins website itself.

    Thinking about you all the time! Hugs!

  11. Marcia Says:

    You go girl! Kick Ass! We all love you and have you on our minds. Can’t wait for your nutritional blog!!! xoxoxox Marcia

  12. donna Says:

    Hello Deanne. I enjoyed reading your journey wfth cancer. Your daughter goes to school with my Granddaughter Taylor Gardner. Her Dad sent this to me. You are a very brave woman, and an inspiration to all. I am fighting cancer a well, and face the same decisions, and fears. Thank you for taking the time to write your story.

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